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Polyfest 2024: Why the festival is important and relevant to today’s young people

Riria Dalton-Reedy, Te Rito Journalism cadet

Polyfest has always been a bucket list activity for me, so when I got the call-up to report on it, I jumped at the opportunity.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air


Polyfest has always been a bucket list activity for me, so when I got the call-up to report on it, I jumped at the opportunity.

I asked my friends for a Polyfest Starter Kit and they told me a hat, a fan and plenty of water will help me sustain the heat.

My first impression was the warm Pacific wairua upon arrival - every volunteer went above and beyond to help this newbie navigate her way through the Polyfest maze.

The festival is like a cultural treasure hunt - all I had to do was follow the sound of cheers and before I knew it I had struck gold, I found myself at the Māori stage.

As a self-proclaimed haka freak, it only made sense to park up in front of the stage for an optimal viewing experience.

Braving the kapa haka moshpit and watching back-to-back brackets in extreme heat on the rock-hard floor is not for the faint of heart.

But as the judges or kaiwhiwhiri would chant before each performance: “Mō te kaupapa, mō ngā tamariki,” which means: “For the cause, for the children.” That’s what it’s all about.

So much goes into preparing for a haka competition, no matter what grade or division you’re in.

What you see on stage is a mere fraction of the time, dedication, energy and resources that goes into creating this 25-minute bracket.

Paired with the kaupapa of their stand and the rich display of cultural pride, I think every kapa should be proud of their performance regardless of the results - and that was evident in the mass support shown on the day.

Also adding to the experience was the top-tier entertainment by the Māori stage MCs Awatea and Raniera, who were instrumental in keeping the wairua pumping.

Half-time haka comps, mana waves and dance battles kept the morale high and vibes going throughout the day.

It’s often said that the way to one’s heart is through their stomach, and I’m a stern believer that a hui is only as good as it’s kai - Polyfest did not disappoint.

Smash burgers, smoothies on tap, hāngi, Mama Sela’s Otai - you name it, they had it.

But nothing will ever beat a good ol’ South Auckland pork bun for me.

I also didn’t plan on doing much shopping but the stalls were 10/10, so it was hard to turn a blind eye.

The flashest kākahu (clothes), jewellery, cultural attire and handcrafted products so you can represent your culture and kaupapa in style.

Most products are ethically made by whānau-owned businesses too, so it’s cool to know that you’re investing in a valuable kaupapa or venture.

Being immersed in other cultures was another highlight for me, growing up in a predominantly Māori community.

The Diversity Stage was an all-day party, with the crowd just as passionate as those onstage - the energy was infectious and you couldn’t help but smile.

The spirit and stories of the Pacific were also prominent on their respective stages, with crowds doubling in size yesterday; flocking in to see the best Samoan, Tongan, Niuean and Cook Island performances.

I was privileged to hear from rangatahi (youth) from Tuvalu, Fiji and even different iwi in Africa - all of whom now call Aotearoa home.

I think Polyfest is especially important for rangatahi growing up in the cultural melting pot of Tāmaki Makaurau to reconnect to their ancestral roots.

There are so many diverse cultures that make up Aotearoa and I love that Polyfest gives them the opportunity to showcase their slice of paradise to the world.

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